Nearly a week after rural parents from across Ontario rallied at Queen’s Park to protest how the government funds schools in rural areas — a conference will be held in Parkhill to discuss solutions to the problem.
The symposium will be held at the North Middlesex Community Centre in Parkhill from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. on Saturday.
“We’re going to do a ‘think-tank’ not a ‘complaint-tank,'” Organizer Darren Ferguson told AM980.
It is free to attend as Ferguson says all parents, politicians, and advocates are invited to participate.
The symposium comes several days after parents took to Queen’s Park saying the school closures will leave some kids stuck on buses for as long as four hours each day. They say that some kids may not be able to participate in extracurricular activities like sports and clubs because they would be left stranded after the activities are over, with no way to get home.
“I believe the last ten [to] fifteen years, I don’t think the system is working and believe it or not we’re actually starting to see it in the city schools as well too. I think we need to take a step back and again, much like we’re doing right now, put a think-thank together, put a group together and revamp this,” Ferguson said.
“Up here in North Middlesex we realized we aren’t on an ARC [Accommodation Review Committe], we weren’t being talked about, but the rumor around the coffee shop, you might say, is that [our school was] closing.”
The Thames Valley District School Board is currently considering closing six schools, one in southeast London and five in Elgin County.
In eastern Ontario, the Upper Canada District School Board is suggesting that as many as 29 schools be closed in the next two years. Near Sudbury, the Rainbow District School Board proposes shuttering four schools, while the Bluewater District School Board in the Owen Sound area also is looking at closing four schools. The fate of five others is under consideration by the Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board near Belleville.
The government says school closures are completely up to the school board, while opponents suggest that it’s not that simple. People for Education, a Canadian charitable research organization, says that the education funding model disadvantages rural schools, which typically have smaller populations than their urban and suburban counterparts.
With files from Global News